"Vulnerability”

Worship Script 2


Worship Script (2 of 5)

Sacred Vulnerability

 

OPENING WORDS

Learn How To Be More Human by Erica Hewitt


Welcome to this morning, this day, and this opportunity to be together in community—which is a time of joy, comfort, and sometimes challenges. This Unitarian Universalist congregation is a place where we come to learn more about being human. We’re not here because we’ve figured out life’s questions, or because we think we’ve got it right.

We come here to learn more about being in relationship together: how to listen, how to forgive, how to be vulnerable, and how to create trust and compassion in one another.

Let us move into worship, willing to be authentic with each other, honest within ourselves, and opening to connection in all its forms.
 

HYMN #360Here We Have Gathered

 

FIRST READING

The Prophet, Chapter on Joy and Sorrow, by Kahil Gabrin


Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
 

 

SECOND READING
Excerpts from the Dr Brene Brown’s, “The Gifts of Imperfection”

Authenticity isn’t always the safe option. Sometimes choosing being real over being liked is all about playing it unsafe. It means stepping out of our comfort zone. And trust me, as someone who has stepped out on many occasions, it’s easy to get knocked around when you’re wandering through new territory.

As we struggle to be authentic and brave, it’s important to remember that cruelty always hurts, even if criticism are untrue. When we go against the grain and put ourselves and our work out in the world, some people will feel threatened and they will go after what hurts the most - our appearance, our lovability, and even our parenting. The problem is what when we don’t care at all what people think and we’re immune to hurt, we’re also ineffective at connecting. Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take is we want to experience connection.

 

HYMN #396 I Know This Rose Will Open

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
The Person Who Had Feelings, From Contact, Pittsburgh Newsletter found in SMILES Program by Erica Pittman

Once there was a very small person who had feelings. He had many feelings and he got them out everyday. His family liked him when he showed his feelings. So he started wearing them on his sleeves. Then one day, his father said he did not like to see the small person’s fear feeling anymore – and he tried to pull it off!
But the fear feeling would not come off!
So the father said he would give the small person some tough to cover his fear. It was very hard to cover the fear with tough. Mother and grandmother helped. It took many days.
“Now you look wonderful”, father said when it was done.
“We’ve covered some of your feelings with tough. You’ll grow into a good, strong person.”
When the small person was a little older he found a friend. The friend wore his feelings on his sleeve too. But one day the friend said, “My mother wants me to cover my lonely feelings and I’ll be different from now on.”
And – he was!
The small person decided to hide his lonely feelings too.And he got some anger from a stranger. He put big patches of anger on top of his lonely. It was hard work trying to cover the lonely feelings.
.

One night he noticed his lonely and fear were growing and beginning to stick out around the patches.The small person had to go out to find more anger to cover the lonely and he got the entire tough his father could spare to cover the fear.
The person grew bigger and he was very popular. Everyone said he could hide his feelings very well. One day the person’s father said he had a proud feeling and he would share it because the person was growing up with so much tough.
But the person couldn’t find any place to wear the proud feeling because the tough was getting too big. The person had trouble finding room for any other feelings on his sleeves.
The tough and anger were all that showed. Then one day – the friend told the person a secret. “I’m not really like you … my tough and angry are only patches to hide my fear and lonely.”
The person sat very quietly and didn’t speak.
Then he carefully pulled a little edge of his tough back and showed his fear.
And the friend saw it.
And the person folded back a corner of his anger and the friend saw his lonely.
Then, the friend reached out gently and touched the person’s fear, and then he touched his lonely – and the friend’s touch was like magic – For a feeling of acceptance appeared on the person’s sleeves. And when he looked he saw that he was different. All his real feelings were showing! And his tough and anger were smaller!
And then the person knew that whenever someone gave him acceptance – he would need less tough. And then there would be more room to show his real feelings ….
Whatever they were – happy, proud,love, sad, warm, strong, hurt, good, lonely

 

 

MEDITATION

Excerpts from In Gatherings by Marta I. Valentin

When our hearts sing or when they frown
it is the way of compassion telling us to give.
It is the way of peace telling us
to share our gifts,
for we are happiest
and most powerful
when Love is made apparent
in and through us.

Spirit of the ­circle that is Love,
as we twirl in this dance that is life
we give thanks for reminding us each day
of our task of ministering to each “other”
with a searching glance,
a safe touch,
a generous smile,
a thoughtful word...

Thank you for reminding us
that we are always building our beloved comunidad.

Thank you for reminding us
that through our cov­e­nant with you
we cov­e­nant with each “other”
and are made whole.

In gratitude, we celebrate
with open hearts and minds.
We discover who we are,
separate from each other
and within one another.

In this ­circle that holds all life
may we ever work ­toward
widening its boundaries
until there are none.

Amen. Paz. Blessed Be.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

Sacred Vulnerability  by Chris Jimmerson, minister for program development, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas


Here’s a quote that I really love: “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”


That’s from a series of online lectures by Dr. Brené Brown, a well-known researcher, author and speaker from the University of Houston School of Social Work. She defines vulnerability as “exposure, uncertainty, and emotional risk.”

She goes on to say that while embracing our vulnerability is not weakness, neither does it mean we will never have problems or make mistakes or suffer. It is recognizing that we will stumble, and can love ourselves and other people, not in spite of these things, but because of them.
To be alive is to be vulnerable. And yet our cultural norms favor an extreme individualism and self-reliance that can strongly encourage us to aim for a false sense of invincibility, which can, paradoxically, drain our courage for both loving and accepting love. Cultivating this false sense of invincibility can lead to shaming, and rob of us of the belonging and connection that are at the center of what it means to be fully human.


Now, I still struggle with all of this sometimes. Recently I had the pleasure of teaching one of our Sunday morning religious education classes for kindergarten and first grade children. After the lesson, it was too cold and rainy to let them go outside and play, so we had to come up with activities that they could do inside.


A few of them got bored and decided they would turn me into an indoor jungle gym. Soon I found myself under siege by a group of five- and six-year-olds, all demanding that I play with them by being their climbing, swinging and seesaw apparatus. I was outnumbered, outmaneuvered and outlandishly on the verge of experiencing pure joy—if only I would let myself give in to it. And I resisted it.


Dr. Brown calls this resistance, “foreboding joy.” It happens when we won’t let ourselves fully experience joyful moments because we start to project what can go wrong. We fear the joy because we know it will end. We start imagining all the sorrow that may come. It’s like we try to ward off the sorrow in our lives by stifling the joy. Yeah, that’ll work.


So, here are the foreboding and shaming thoughts I was having: Oh my God, I have to keep them on the carpeted area or one of them will get hurt and it’ll all be my fault and the church will get sued and I’ll never get to work within Unitarian Universalism ever again. Also: What will their parents think if they come to pick them up and find that they’ve tackled their Sunday school teacher and taken over the classroom? Not to mention: Good golly man, you have ‘Reverend’ in front of your name now, you can’t be seen acting the fool with a bunch of first graders.
Sometimes my shaming thoughts have a British accent. Luckily for me, the more I resisted, the more the kids upped the ante. Five- and six-year olds have a lot more energy and determination than I do. So I discovered that if I gave in and joined in the fun, they would actually more easily accept some parameters like staying on the carpeted area.


And it was pure joy.


Some of the other research I looked at said that for adults to engage in playful activity is one of the most vulnerable things we can do, because in our culture we are often taught a very strong work ethic that shames such activities. To play, we also give up a sense of control and propriety and allow ourselves to lose our sense of time and place. And yet, the research also shows that play is one of the ways we get in touch with our deeper and more authentic selves and risk allowing others to see us more deeply.


In addition to the “foreboding joy” mentioned earlier, Dr. Brown outlines a number of other ways that we avoid vulnerability, which ultimately rob of us of living fully. To name just a few:
Perpetual disappointment. this is the the Eeyore view of theworld. “Oh well, best not get too excited because something’s gonna go wrong eventually.” Numbing. We can try to avoid feeling at all, or at least dull our emotions to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Numbing includes the things we normally think of as addictions, such as alcohol and drugs, but also things like excessive television, video games and smart phone use; overeating; working too much; buying too much, etc. After 9/11, we were told to all go shopping, right? Brown notes, “We are the most obese, in debt, addicted and medicated adult cohort in known human history. We numb.”


Perfectionism. She calls this the “20-ton shield” when it comes to avoiding vulnerability. And of course it is a trap because we can never be perfect. Perfectionism can stifle our internal drive to strive for excellence, because even excellent will not be perfect, so why take any real risks at all?

For me, perfectionism has sometimes been a way of super-numbing.


I was the oldest child in my family growing up. Now, you may have heard about the oldest sibling syndrome wherein under stress we can become over-functioning, something very closely related to perfectionism. Especially in anxious situations, over-functioners tend to try take care of everyone else—and maybe even micromanage a little. We know what is best for everyone, which is usually some level of perfection that’s impossible. My parents divorced when I was twelve and so I got an especially strong case of oldest child syndrome. It is something I still have to watch out for.


The other thing that happened after the divorce is that my grandparents on my mother’s side became like a second set of parents to me. They helped raise us. We spent as much time at their house as at our own. My grandfather became my father figure, and I pretty much idolized them both. They became role models for me.


So when I got the call one day, many years ago now, that my grandfather was in the hospital and it did not look good, I went into sort of an over-functioner’s perfect storm. I didn’t stop to cry or grieve or feel anything. I called started making plans to make the drive over to take care of my family. I was going to do this grieving thing perfectly!


When we got to the hospital he was no longer conscious, so I did not even get to say goodbye, but I didn’t cry or grieve. I took care of everyone else.


And when I got the call the next morning that he had died, I didn’t cry. I got up, got dressed and started planning and taking care of things. And even when I gave the eulogy at his funeral, I still didn’t cry. Nor did I at the reception afterwards, or on the drive back home when it was all done, or after we got back home. I was too busy “functioning.”


And then, I think it was maybe a day later, I couldn’t find my glasses, and so I went out to our car, thinking maybe they had fallen under a seat or something, and started searching for them. I didn’t find them, but I did find a map my grandfather had given me—he was quite a traveler, and big on maps—and he had written his name on it. My grandfather had this habit of writing his name on all his belongings. And suddenly, sitting there alone on the floorboard of the car, with no one left to take care of anymore but me, I ran out of ways to avoid it. I started crying. And for a while it felt as if I might never stop.


A friend of mine who’s a playwright once had one of his characters, after having just lost her family in a car wreck, say, “I don’t have to cry now. I can cry tomorrow, or next week or next month or next year, because it’s never going to stop. It’s never going to stop hurting.”


I guess that was kind of what I had been doing—trying to put off feeling the hurt. It doesn’t work, but the character was right about one thing. It never really does completely stop hurting. We just learn to carry it with us. And I think maybe that’s as it should be, because for me it is also carrying them with us.


My grandparents are the people who taught me to have a love of nature. To this day, even though they have both been gone over 15 years now, I will be on a nature hike and see something so beautiful that it fills me with joy, and I will think that I have to call them and tell them about it and their old phone number will still come into my head. And then I will remember that I can’t call, and it still stings.


The thing is, somehow because of this, the joy of the experience is also deeper, greater, more complex. I call it a joy so full that it is an aching joy, rather than the foreboding joy we talked about earlier.


Writer and poet Kahlil Gibran said it like this: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” And that’s why numbing robs us of living fully. That’s the reason to seek lives of vulnerability and authenticity. If we refuse to allow sorrow to carve into our being, we will also never experience the fullness of aching joy.


I think maybe we need to start by being willing to ask for the space to be vulnerable and by being willing to risk it; to reach out and say, “My son is in the hospital and I could use some help,” or “I just got that promotion I have been wanting at work, and I am thrilled and at the same time terrified over whether I am really capable of it, and I don’t have anywhere else to share it.”

If we can do this, our communities become places where we can practice living authentically. Places where we are allowed to be vulnerable and imperfect and make mistakes and be forgiven for them rather than shamed. Places where we are courageous enough for empathy to thrive. Places where we can play with the spontaneity and abandon of young children. Places where we love and accept love and radiate that love out into our larger world.


I think we can create spaces where life’s hallowed sorrows and aching joys can be sung into the rafters and held by beloved community.
 

 

HYMN #402From You I Receive

 

BENEDICTION

By Enid A. Virago
 

Go in peace.
Hold in your heart the certainty
That the spirit of life is with you always.

When your heart is torn asunder
Or when you soar with sweet joy,
You are never alone, never apart,
From the spirit that resides within us,
That guides our lives and cherishes us always.

Take comfort.
Blessed be.